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Idol Chatter

If you’re like me, the worlds of spiritual reflection and cultural relevance often meet at Starbucks, where I go for anything from solitude and reflection time to business meetings or reunions with friends. So I’m a Starbucks lover, but I’m not sure I’m ready for its latest move.

Several major publications have recently reported on Starbucks’ intention to make a deeper dent into our cultural direction and our personal decisions. “Starbucks is changing what we eat and drink. It’s altering where and when we work and play. It’s shaping how we spend time and money. That’s just for appetizers,” says USA Today. “Starbucks has an even glitzier goal: to help rewrite society’s pop culture menu.”

“The company recently announced an alliance with the William Morris Agency, a talent and literary agency that will help Starbucks identify music, film, and book projects to consider for marketing and distribution in its stores,” offers The Washington Times.

And they’re not just floating the idea: They already have licensing agreements “with most of the major record labels that will give it the ability to offer everything from Britney Spears and The Polyphonic Spree to Yo-Yo Ma and Ray Charles,” reports Business Week. “Chairman Howard Schultz, sitting casually in his office near a photo of him arm-in-arm with Mick Jagger (said), ‘Our customers have given us permission to extend the experience.’”

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t given my permission. I find myself unsure of whether I want Starbucks to be a convenient marketplace or a break from it. I can handle, “Would you like a muffin or a bagel today?” or “Would you like to sample our latest coffee?” I’m not sure I’m ready for, “Can I get you a CD or DVD with your coffee today?” I think I want a break from being sold on something.

Says the USA Today article: “Schultz says Starbucks still has to earn its stripes as tastemaker. Much as it would like to become an ‘editor’ of culture, he says, ‘one of the great strengths of Starbucks is our humility.’

That’s a nice branding soundbite, but I think Starbucks is showing more pride than humility. I’m curious to see how it goes.

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